Not again

I can’t even believe I’m saying this, as it doesn’t seem quite possible, but it looks like I’m going to need surgery on my left elbow for the same problem I just had on my right elbow. As I mentioned in my last post, I hyperextended my left elbow in my first hockey game back after recovering from surgery on the right elbow for an avulsion fracture. It was painful, but not a big deal, and didn’t compare in any way with the injury to my right elbow back in July. The motion was different, and the pain was less.

It felt like it was getting better all week, and I ended up playing hockey the next Sunday and everything was fine. I had a great time, scored the only goal of the game, and enjoyed seeing my friends. This whole week I’ve been taking care of it and it’s been fine, but then yesterday morning I was putting together a set of bunk beds for the girls, and while pushing these two pieces together, I felt a pop in my left elbow, then a bunch of pain.

With Jessica’s help, I finished assembling the bunk beds, then started hemming and hawing for a while about whether or not I should go to urgent care. Based on her insistance, I decided to go get it looked at. There’s a brand new Urgent Care less than a mile from our house, so I had no excuse.

I explained everything to the doctor, including my previous injury, then he proceeded to do a bunch of tests by having me push and twist different ways with my hand/arm. At the end he said, “If you put a gun to my head, I don’t think you have another avulsion fracture, but we could do an x-ray if you want, it’s just that someone has to pay for it.” My response was basically “Well, my family has already reached our out-of-pocket maximum for the year, so let’s go for it! I hope you’re right, but I’d like to have the peace of mind I can only get from a negative x-ray.” He said that was fine and set me up for the next step.

Fast-forward to the moment the doctor is bringing my x-ray images up on screen. He hasn’t seen them yet, but as soon as he does he starts to chuckle and says something like “Well, I guess you were right.” I looked at the screen and saw almost the exact same x-ray I saw back in July on my right arm. As he explained, I have a bone spur on my elbow that is partially attached to my triceps, and it has partially avulsed. I showed him a photo of my x-ray from July on my right elbow and he said the injury is the same, except the spur on my right elbow had completely avulsed (broke off), which is why that experience was more traumatic and painful than this one. In this case, it’s a partial avulsion, but if I were to go out and play hockey tonight (or do anything athletic involving my arms), I would almost certainly experience a full avulsion. Having been through that recently and knowing how painful it is, I’d rather not experience it again. The memory of it is still fresh in my mind.

I know it seems like hockey is the culprit here, so I asked him for his opinion on that. What he basically said is that it’s not very common for people to have bone spurs like this on their elbows, and that while hockey isn’t something he necessary recommends for grown men, this issue would have likely surfaced elsewhere, assuming I was involved in some other activity. Hearing this was a bit of a relief because I don’t want to quit permanently, even though I know I am now being forced into taking another break from it.

So what’s the next step? Well, tomorrow morning I will call my Orthopedic surgeon who fixed my right elbow, and setup an appointment. My assumption, based on recent experience, is that we won’t need an MRI this time, and will just schedule a new surgery, but we’ll have to wait and see. My biggest concern is how long it will take to see him. I have jury duty in Snohomish this Wednesday through Friday, however if that’s the only time I can get into the doctor then I’ll just have to figure something out.

I was pretty bummed out yesterday afternoon knowing that in all likelihood, I’m going to need another surgery, then have to go through another 6 weeks of physical therapy. However at this point I’m over being bummed about it and need to just take things one at a time. I probably shouldn’t get too far ahead of myself, but I can’t help it based on recent experience. I suppose there’s still a chance I won’t need surgery, but I doubt it. I have no pushing strength in my left arm and simple tasks like pumping a squirt of hand soap are very painful. It’s so weird for my right arm to suddenly be my ‘good arm’ again, considering all the time I just spent rehabbing it, but it’s doing great. I have full mobility, zero pain, and it honestly feels stronger than before the injury. I think that has to be part of the consideration to have surgery on the left one, but we’ll see what the doctor says.

To end on a positive note, the girls love their new bunk beds, or as they call them, “bunker beds”. Kristy found them for sale online near her house and ended up getting them for us. I wasn’t sure if everything would fit in our minivan, but it did, and setup was relatively painless. Actually ‘painless’ probably isn’t the right word here, but I digress. Elise had completely outgrown her tiny bed, so we handed it off to another mom with an infant son. Now all 3 of the kids have ‘big kid’ beds that they won’t outgrow for years to come.

We’ve got a busy day today: hockey for Ava at 11:30, running for Elise at 3:00, and game 2 of the NLCS at 5:00. It’s Dodgers vs Cubs again this year, so I’m hoping for my revenge against the Northsiders. Dodgers took game 1 last night, so tonight will be interesting.

My right elbow x-ray from July. The spur has completely avulsed.

My left elbow x-ray from yesterday. The spur has partially avulsed.

The girls sitting on their ‘bunker beds’ for the first time

A new season begins

For the girls and I, a new sporting season has recently begun. Elise has been on a kids running team for a few weeks now and is having a lot of fun, Ava just started the hockey 2 program with the Washington Wild, and I’ve been back to playing hockey on Sunday afternoon for two weeks now. There’s a lot to get into, but first, an update on Enzo and Jessica.

The little guy took a big spill on his bike this weekend and has a split lip to show for it. I was out in the garage practicing shooting with my hockey stick when I heard Enzo start screaming and crying. I started making my way outside to see what was happening when I heard Ava yelling for me, saying Enzo was bleeding. I sprinted over to him and found him in the neighbor’s driveway with blood all over his face. He was a huge mess so I swooped him up into my arms and ran back inside. Jessica was home but upstairs so I yelled for her to come down, then started looking for the source of the bleeding.

We quickly traced it to his inner bottom lip, which was split wide open and already starting to swell. Once we got him under control (with a popsicle of course), we called a nurse hotline available through my work. After talking it over with the nurse we decided to stay home, keep ice on it, and watch the bleeding. He turned out to be fine, but the next morning his mouth was really swollen and bruised. It’s been getting better each day, and he barely even notices it now, but it was no fun in the moment.

Other than that he’s been doing great. He’s been regularly asking me if he can go ice skating with the girls, so I expect to start taking him soon. Jessica recently took a really cute video of him dancing in our living room, which I have posted below.

Jessica, in her quest to become Mill Creek Citizen of the Year, is continuing to brighten the days of complete strangers by giving out all of the painted rocks she spends so much time working on. Whether it’s responding to a request on social media for a particular themed rock for someone going through a hardship, or just leaving rocks unannounced for people whom she interacts with on the local ‘Buy Nothing’ site, she’s constantly spreading joy and receiving public (social) thank you’s. Her work is quite impressive these days, so I’ve recently put in a couple rock requests for myself. Fingers crossed that those requests receive preferential treatment.

Elise has been running on Sunday afternoons for a few weeks now, and she’s having a lot of fun. In all honesty, the program we enrolled her in is a bit of a joke, and Jess & I regularly comment that we could do something much better, but it’s fine. Basically you show up, wait for your race (which in Elise’s case is 4-5 year old girls), run the race, and go home. In terms of providing a minimum viable experience, it meets that bar, but that’s about it.

When you consider that these are all young kids with very little experience in track or running, you’d think they would do some type of group stretching or warm-up before starting the races, but that’s not the case. So instead, we arrive a little early and I do the stretching/warm-up with Elise (and usually Ava). Elise may not be the fastest kid out there, but no one is having more fun, and that’s all I care about. Ava likes to say things like “Elise, you lost the race and you’re not even crying”, but Elise always shows impressive maturity and tells her that she doesn’t mind if she loses the race because she still has fun running with her friends. She gets noticeably excited when seeing kids she recognizes from previous outings, so it’s all good. We’re hoping to get Elise started in a dance class soon as well. She’s been showing an interest there so we’re excited to let her try it out. As long as the kids are staying active and having fun, we’re happy.

Yesterday was Ava’s first day with the Washington Wild. Going into this I knew that they were one of the top female hockey programs in North America, but it didn’t really sink in until seeing it all in person. I actually play hockey on Sundays with one of the guys that helps run the organization, so I ran into him shortly after we arrived and he ended up introducing me to everyone.

The Wild were formed 15 years ago by two women who had grown up playing hockey, but always struggled with the fact that there were very few options for female hockey players. One of the founders has an award named after her, and the other is in the hockey coaching hall of fame. What started as a single team has now become an entire league, with multiple teams and age groups spanning from 4 to 19. In addition to local league play, the Wild have multiple travel teams who frequently compete in tournaments in other states, as well as Canada. They consistently place girls in NCAA hockey programs, and just last year they graduated 4 girls from various universities.

I want to be clear that I’m not expecting Ava to reach the highest levels this program offers, but simply point out that if she does decide to stick with hockey, she’s definitely in the right place. It’s a really cool program and I’m glad we’re now a part of it. Since Ava has done several skating classes already, including the hockey 1 program in Everett, she was invited to start out in the hockey 2 program with the Wild. This means wearing full hockey gear and using a stick on the ice, both of which are firsts for new participants in this class.

Ava was so excited to get out on the ice, but first we watched the end of a game featuring 8-10 year old girls. Honestly I couldn’t believe how good they were! They’re probably playing a cleaner game of hockey than the group I play with on Sundays, and their skating is definitely better. After their game Ava was right up front waiting to get out on the ice. Watching her there with the other girls, knowing this would be her first time playing with pads and a stick, my heart was racing. I knew she would be totally fine, but I was pretty anxious.

She ended up doing great and was bursting with pride when she came off the ice. It’s an hour long class, so it’s twice as long as any other skating/hockey class she has ever done, and while other girls were coming off the ice for a break here and there, Ava was having none of it. She didn’t want to leave even after the hour was up, but she had so much fun and couldn’t stop talking about it. When we were leaving, she got her own USA Hockey headband, and a sports card for one of the girls from the Wild’s oldest division. She kept the headband on all day, and refused to set the card down. We’ll see what happens, but I think she’s hooked. Can’t wait for next week.

After Elise’s race yesterday, I played hockey for the second Sunday in a row. On my first day back (the previous Sunday), I got to reunite with all my buddies and get caught up. Not surprisingly, when I finished playing my elbow was sore, but what is surprising, is that it wasn’t my right elbow (the one I had surgery on) that was sore. I managed to hyperextend my left elbow half-way through the game. It was painful, but there was no way I was coming off the ice. I can tell the difference between being hurt and being injured, and this was definitely the former. This was my first time playing left-handed, so I probably over-compensated, but I couldn’t believe it. It’s like, are you kidding me? I’ve been nursing my right elbow for 2 months, and now as soon as it’s healthy I’ve got to start dealing with the left one? I ended up getting a couple shots off during the game, but didn’t manage to score. Didn’t matter though, it was just good to be back out there.

I took good care of the left elbow all week, then yesterday came along and things went much better. With a brace on each elbow, a knee brace, and all my hockey gear, I felt like the bionic man getting on the ice. We did power skating drills for 30 minutes, so by the time the game started, everyone was gassed. It was a low scoring affair, but my team won 1-0. Fortunately for me, I got the one goal of the game. While I generally don’t celebrate my goals in favor of acting like I’ve been there before, this one was special for a number of reasons:

  1. It was my first goal since my injury
  2. It was my first goal playing left-handed
  3. It was the best goal I’ve ever shot

The whole play is still fresh in my mind, so I’m going to describe it. I was playing left-wing and my teammate (the center) got out on a fast break with the puck. If you drew an imaginary line down the center of the ice from goal to goal, we would have been about 8 feet to the left of it, and I was following him about 15 feet behind. He took a shot on goal, the goalie stopped it, and the puck deflected way up in the air. The goalie lost site of the puck, but I could see it the entire way.

As it came down everything went into slow motion for me. The puck landed about 10 feet in front of me, the goalie was out of position, and there was no one between me and him. That’s when you have the realization that you’re about to get a wide open shot, which can often lock people up. I’ve seen people (including myself) end up falling and/or missing the puck all together, but I’ve been practicing wrist and snap shots from the left side in my garage, and I was ready.

I took two strides towards the puck and set up for a snap shot, which is a power shot generally used when you’re close to the goal. I reached forward with my right arm, pushing the butt end of the stick down to create flex, then pulled it in, rolling my left wrist under the puck as it made contact, in order to get lift on the shot. As I was making contact, I saw the goalie diving back in front of the goal with his glove extended. The puck was rising, as I had intended, and it just barely passed by the goalie’s glove, then hit the inside of the top-right corner bar and ricocheted into the back of the net.

Our coach, who was playing defense on my team, immediately started yelling about “That’s why you always follow on the fast-break!” and “Position is everything in hockey!” and “Nice fucking goaaaaal!!!!!”. It was awesome. It just felt like this total comeback moment, being back out there with the same group on the same ice where I was injured a couple months ago, to be having this feeling of validation and achievement after dealing with surgery and physical therapy.

In many ways I feel like the situation I have with hockey now is very similar to Jiu-Jitsu in San Diego. When I was working in La Jolla, I’d go to the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school a couple times a week on my lunch break, and became part of this great group of people. I loved it and always wanted to be there. Then we moved back to Seattle, and leaving my school was the hardest part. I tried two different Jiu-Jitsu schools but was never able to find something that felt right. It was a total bummer, but now I have this great group of people to play hockey with every Sunday, and it feels very much the same. I’m definitely glad to have found it.

Rather than end a post with recent photos, as I usually do, this time I’m going to switch things up and share some recent videos we’ve taken. There’s one from Jessica of Enzo dancing in the living room, one of Elise running her race yesterday, and three from Ava’s first practice with the Wild. Enjoy!

I normally find Ava on the ice by looking for the pink helmet, but that doesn’t really work anymore.